Participants at the opening of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative’s Technical Working Group on Law Enforcement Matters in Barbados. (A. Gaskin/BGIS)
By Julia Rawlins-Bentham
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (BGIS) -- Greater levels of cooperation among policymakers and those responsible for implementation is the ammunition needed to battle crime affecting the region, Barbados Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite told regional partners, while addressing the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative’s (CBSI) technical working group on law enforcement matters at its two-day meeting in Bridgetown on Thursday.
“As a region, none of us individually has the resources that it will take to deal with these matters, and it is therefore important for us to get together like this, from time to time, and sit down as regional partners to discuss what we are doing individually and collectively,” he said.
Noting that the CBSI had pledged $260 million to assist with various aspects of the crime fight in the region, the attorney general noted that the onus was now on all regional partners to ensure that they were better off as a result of the US intervention.
Brathwaite pointed out that countries in the region needed to pay attention to the issues of trafficking in persons and narcotics.
“Trafficking is an area that I am very passionate about. As a region…we should accept our responsibility to ensure that we do all that is possible to remove trafficking from these shores. [But] as a region we have never sat down and discussed how we can tackle this issue collectively,” he noted.
He suggested that there be greater collaboration between policymakers and those on the ground in the development of effective policies for the crime fight.
“From time to time, we really need as policymakers to sit down with you on the ground and ensure that the policies that we create are the most effective policies to accomplish what we are trying to accomplish in terms of reduction of crime in the region,” he said.
The minister stressed that if all involved had a similar passion for various aspects of crime intervention, then the region “would be much better off”.
CBSI is built on the principles of partnership, cooperation and dialogue. It is a joint partnership with areas of focus that include building citizen security and reducing illicit trafficking.
Under the CBSI, the US Government makes contributions in the form of training, technical assistance and equipment.
In speaking with media personnel after the opening ceremony, Brathwaite said that recent acts of violence do not suggest that Barbados’s crime rate is up; neither do they reflect any new trends.
He pointed to media reports, as being partly responsible for the views that crime in Barbados was up.
“The fear of crime is as devastating as the crime itself. No matter how I use statistics to show that we are in fact down in terms of reported crime, that [fact] is not highlighted. But let someone get stabbed in St Lawrence Gap, that’s highlighted and indicative that crime is up in the country,” Brathwaite argued.
While admitting that there were some problem areas, the minister stressed that they were not new. Instead, he noted that there were areas which required continuous intervention to ensure that generations of individuals did not become involved in criminal activity.
“I am sure you can tick off the areas where we had problems with crime in this country, and the areas which we consider bad areas, they are not new,” he said.
He added that government, through various ministries, including the ministry of social care, was seeking to address the issue. This is being done through various initiatives.
“When individuals get involved in crime we try to give them tools. If you go into the prison you will see what I mean, it is not just a police issue,” he said.
Brathwaite lamented the fact that a significant number of young people in prison experienced challenges in the school system. But, he noted, that the problematic child was often sent to the back of the class at the secondary level, rather than given the assistance required.
“We have decided that we need to intervene more with youngsters who are having issues in the traditional school setting… We have to ensure that we can address individual cases,” Brathwaite said, stressing that there was a need to start the reform process from the bottom up.